I am a new middle school mom. Yes, I teared up as he got out of the car for his first day of this new adventure, but I did try to play it cool. I am still in shock that we arrived at this milestone so quickly, but here we are. Ready or not… middle school years are upon us.
Parenting a middle schooler, a pre-teen or a “tween,” whatever you want to call it, is not for the faint of heart. It can vary from child to child, but attitudes can really take a turn as early as 8 and through the age of 12.
During these pre-adolescent years, kids may begin to pull away from you and struggle more than they care to admit. Physical changes, growing pains with friendships and desires for a new independence can play a role in their development during this time.
These preteens are a lot like toddlers in this new stage, they’re learning how to articulate their feelings and they’re demanding independence (remember the “threenager” struggles), but they still need you to guide and teach them in this new stage of life.
I am in no way an expert, just a mom sharing some tips that might help you. Along with a little trial-and-error, life with a preteen can still be amazing.
Here are some simple tips for this uncharted territory:
Write them kind notes. They still need you. They won’t share with their friends that mom left a note, but it will mean a lot to them to see a hidden note in their backpack or on top of their laundry (that will take days to put away).
Remind them they are loved. Lots of emotions and insecurities are going through their head. A reminder that they’re loved no matter what might calm those nerves.
Offer to talk with them. They might not take you up on it right away, but it’ll reinforce that you’re available and willing if and when they have something to get off their chest.
Listen to their stories. Most of the time, we don’t get many details past, “It was good,” but if they start opening up about something that happened at school or they’re telling a story about something funny they heard from a friend, listen. It might be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to connect with your kids.
Pick them up with snacks in the car. They’ll be hangry and surprising them with a simple snack will most definitely give you cool points and eliminate some hangry vibes.
I’m learning as we go, but the preteen struggles are real. If you’re also parenting a middle schooler or preteen, we are in this together! I can’t promise that I won’t tear up when the Facebook memories pop up from those early preschool days, but I am excited to see my amazing kid flourish in this new stage we’re in.
Originally published in December 2022 of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.